Gangtok, October 11 (IPR): Chief Secretary Shri VB Pathak addressed a press conference at Tashiling Secretariat on 10th October to brief about the status of the ongoing combined efforts for rescue, relief and restoration to overcome the challenges posed by the recent calamity.
The Chief Secretary was joined in the press conference by the DGP, ACS Home, ACS Education, Relief Commissioner cum Secretary LRDM, Commissioner cum Secretary RDD, Secretary IPR Department, Deputy GOC of the Army, and Group Captain of the Indian Airforce.
The salient points of the press conference are as follows:
1. After finally achieving clear weather, the Indian Air Force successfully carried out air evacuation of stranded tourists and local people from Lachung and Lachen on the 9th of October, 2023 with the help of assets deployed by Indian Air Force, namely 3 MI-17V5 Helicopters, 2 Chinook Helicopters, 2 Cheetah Helicopters, and 1 ALH.
A total of 514 passengers and one patient were evacuated on 9th October, with a total of 59 sorties. In the process, 22.310 tonnes of relief materials were transported to Lachung, Lachen for the civilians, army, and ITBP. The evacuees included a total of 26 foreign nationals.
2. The evacuation process resumed on 10th October with the help of 2 MI -17 VS Helicopters and 2 Chinook helicopters deployed by the Indian Air Force, and 1 Cheetah Helicopter. A total of 176 stranded persons were evacuated through 39 sorties. 35.810 tonnes of relief materials were sent to the forward areas.
3. A total of 1584 tourists evacuated from the Lachung and Lachen were sent to Siliguri on SNT service and other modes.
4. Along with air evacuation, over 1200 people stranded in Chungthang and surrounding areas were evacuated through the foot bridge constructed by the army, ITBP and the local volunteers.
5. According to the IMD weather forecast, there is potentially a clear weather window for the next two days, offering an opportunity to carry out rescue operations by air. If the weather conditions remain favourable, authorities will make concerted efforts to safely evacuate all remaining stranded tourists within this timeframe.
6. As an immediate measure for semi-permanent restoration, Suspension Bailey bridges will be constructed to restore connectivity in places where permanent bridges have been completely washed away in the floods. As an outcome of the National Crisis Management Committee meeting chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, Government of India, on 9th October, 2023, the State Government has set up a Coordination Committee to finalise the location for construction of the suspension bailey bridges.
7. The main area of concern in regard to road connectivity is the Chungthang-Lachen route. A team of BRO officials are assessing the damages there. Top priority of the State government also lies in restoring road connectivity between Chungthang and Gangtok which has been disrupted due to a road fracture at Toong-Naga. A new alignment between Toong-Naga had been suggested by officials to bypass the disrupted stretch for which works have already been started after receiving NoCs from the locals of the area.
8. The telecommunication lines in Chungthang, Lachung and Lachen were finally restored on 10th October with the help of combined efforts from the army and the BSNL. Further, 5 VSATs will be established in Lachen, Lachung, Chungthang and Theng for complete restoration of telephone network connectivity.
9. Power has been restored in Lachung and Chungthang. In Chaten, engineers had been sent to run the Sikkim Power Development Corporation (SPDC) plant in isolation. As per recent reports, power has now been restored in Lachen and Chaten as well.
10. As per latest update, 36 bodies have been recovered so far including 10 army personnel. Earlier, approximately 170 persons had been reported missing. The number of missing persons has now dropped down to 79 persons after 57 construction workers were traced down in South Sikkim. 28 persons have been reported injured till date.
11. With regard to the multiple speculations over the trigger of the Teesta River flash flood and collapse of Teesta III dam at Chungthang, a thorough inquiry by a multidisciplinary team of experts will be initiated by the State government once the situation stabilises.
12. The State government is considering reopening of schools and colleges in less affected areas in the wake of the Sikkim flash floods. Necessary directives will be issued in due course of time after detailed assessment by the Education Department to ensure safe and timely resumption of educational activities.
13. The scheduled visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the State stands postponed in view of the disaster caused by Sikkim flash floods. His Holiness’s visit is tentatively re-scheduled for November next month.